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City Workers Strike 2009

afransen

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That's faster wage growth than we are seeing in the private sector. And it all boils down to the same issue: we don't owe these people above-market wage jobs. It is insane social policy to 'help the poor' by paying a tiny subsection of the population more than they are worth, paid for in part by taxes on those poor people. But of course, you seem comfortable with the fact that we're taxing people who make $20,000 a year to pay 'a fair wage' of $50k for unskilled, unproductive work. I do not see what is fair, or just in that arrangement.
 

salvius

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Okay, let me break it down for you. They get paid $50,000 per year in salary. They then receive a ~10% or so bonus in the form of bankable sick days (this is equivalent to a bonus)--the percentage is a bit fuzzy because it is paid out at final salary. They also receive a generous pension, which probably costs upwards of 15%-20% or more in fringe. Then they have vision, drug, dental, insurance etc. another 5-10%. There's 30-40%, and I might even be underestimating the cost of the pension (defined benefit is very, very, very expensive). On top of that, they don't have to work very hard (evidence being that they are less than half as productive as their Etobicoke counterparts). These people aren't earning working class salaries.

Their base salary is quite high, and they've got a very good pension plan (which, frankly, I'm quite envious of, but then I think company pension plans are a good idea). I think the health benefit calculation, while technically correct, is meaningless because I would expect that addition for every non-Mickey Mouse job.


Where is my job with the city, and everyone else's, that pays more than the work is worth?

That's not always true; for example, while urban planners tend to make more in the public sector to start with (almost always, from what I've seen), their private sector colleagues eventually catch up and then start making more. The public sector workers do tend to have more frills (more vacation time, pension, and less overtime being by far the #1), but even with all this included, they would make less over time. I wouldn't mind that union job because of those frills (and some other reasons), but salary is not one of them. And that's - of course - nothing compared to city lawyers who make substantially less than their private sector counterparts.
 
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gabe

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That's nice. I still don't get paid the equivalent of $80k a year in salary and fringe benefits.

Unfortunately in the private sector a lot of highly educated skilled workers working in non unionized environments don't get paid what they should.
 

salvius

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Unfortunately in the private sector a lot of highly educated skilled workers working in non unionized environments don't get paid what they should.

And a lot of people get paid much more than they are worth...
 

afransen

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Unfortunately in the private sector a lot of highly educated skilled workers working in non unionized environments don't get paid what they should.

That's the problem. We can't double everyone's salary. It'd just cause a massive wave of inflation and we'd be back to where we started, with years of turmoil on the way there. And you are worth what people are willing to pay you and for what you're willing to work. I am probably more or less worth what I'm being paid now. I could probably find a job that pays a few thousand more, with the risk that I wouldn't like the job or the company. I could start a business and perhaps be paid more, but that is a risk premium. I'm not dissatisfied with my salary, I am annoyed that people earn far more than they are worth and then call it their 'fair share'. And while doing it, providing poor service. It's shameful. I'm not sure I could bring myself to work in a unionized environment with that sense of entitlement, laziness, and greed.
 

dt_toronto_geek

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I'm not sure what site is closest to me, I think it's Moss Park at Sherbourne & King but I can smell it a mile away. Until I closed my windows, I was on the verge of nausea, must be the direction of the wind today. Those poor folks dealing with those piles sure deserve every penny they're getting this weekend to remove 5 weeks worth of stinking, rotting garbage at these sites across the city.
 

AGTO

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Those poor folks dealing with those piles sure deserve every penny they're getting this weekend to remove 5 weeks worth of stinking, rotting garbage at these sites across the city.

Those "poor" folks were the ones who caused this pile of stinking, rotting garbage.
 

acetradamus

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AGTO... no they didn't.

Negotiating a new contract with your employer has nothing to do with the absence of activities relating to the work of striking employees.

Are you saying that people shouldn't try to secure the best contract for themselves only because of the bad smell piles of uncollected garbage would cause?

Hey.. lets just let our employer take everything we have because we dont want to cause a stink...

City workers are employees first and foremost... they aren't God-ordained garbage collectors by destiny. They provide a service and deserve to negotiate for a fair settlement.
 

AGTO

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Yes, they did.

They provide a service and deserve to negotiate for a fair settlement.

As their employer, I deserve good service for the wages I pay...I'm not getting that. Instead I'm getting lazy, unskilled overpaid people expressing their greed in a recession.

Negotiating a new contract with your employer has nothing to do with the absence of activities relating to the work of striking employees.

You have a disconnect from reality.
 

kEiThZ

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That's not always true; for example, while urban planners tend to make more in the public sector to start with (almost always, from what I've seen), their private sector colleagues eventually catch up and then start making more. The public sector workers do tend to have more frills (more vacation time, pension, and less overtime being by far the #1), but even with all this included, they would make less over time. I wouldn't mind that union job because of those frills (and some other reasons), but salary is not one of them. And that's - of course - nothing compared to city lawyers who make substantially less than their private sector counterparts.

Professionals working for the government are a different case. They tend to drift in and out of the private sector. And wages often aren't the sole consideration.

However, low skilled and/or unskilled workers tend to benefit very disproportionately from working for the double monopoly that constitutes the unionized government workplace.

Comparisons with private sector unions are ridiculous. There is no private sector union that is part of a double monopoly (the service and the labour). This compels private sector unions to be reasonable in their demands. A strike that's too long or overly extravagant demands could destroy their employer. Can anybody here show any sort of similar constraint that exists on public sector unions?
 

kEiThZ

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I guess people on this thread are happy with exagerations to make points.

30% pension @ $25/hour is $7.5/hour is an exageration.

10% benefits @ $25/hour is $2.5/hour is likely.

For the $7.5 + $2.5 extra per hour, the city could hire an extra worker all year round or give a summer student a really good wage. I guess you believe that union workers are worth more than the unemployed or struggling students.


I believe they got 5.6 percent over 3 years. That is pretty low in my opinion.

The bank of Canada would disagree. It's not just above core inflation. It could be above the whole CPI basket.

But again, what actually is there hourly rate? What is the total ackage per hour, and how are pension and health benefits deducted from that. If that adds up to 80000, thats fine. I'm pretty sure their package hits right around 60000.

The hourly wage rates have been posted here earlier. Go through the thread.

However, if you consider the 18 bankable sick days alone (at the $25/hr that the trash collectors made prior to the current contract) it constitutes a $3600 per year benefit. That's before any other health benefit. That's before any pensions cost consideration (which are among the most generous in the country). I am willing to bet that the trash collectors alone cost at least 60-65k per year. And they aren't even as productive as their private sector counterparts (if they were I would have no problem with their pay and benefits being this high).

Now translate this scenario across the whole multitude of jobs across the City's work force. We are only picking on trash collectors because we have some clear stats for them. I am fairly sure that if we got similar stats for other workers (particularly in the non-professional class), the picture would be quite similar across the board. One of the pay scales showed a cashier making $25 an hour. What does this cashier do that requires them to make three times what a cashier at Zellers or Walmart or any store in a mall makes. Isn't it reasonable to ask why the city is paying one cashier 25 bucks an hour and not hiring three summer students instead?
 

Hank

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I guess people on this thread are happy with exagerations to make points.

30% pension @ $25/hour is $7.5/hour is an exageration.

10% benefits @ $25/hour is $2.5/hour is likely.

An additional 10% for health???? That is included in the 10% for benefits.

I believe they got 5.6 percent over 3 years. That is pretty low in my opinion.

But again, what actually is there hourly rate? What is the total ackage per hour, and how are pension and health benefits deducted from that. If that adds up to 80000, thats fine. I'm pretty sure their package hits right around 60000.

For one thing, it's 6% over three years, which is well above the projected inflation rate (for this year and the next, at least). And even if their total compensation is $60,000 (which, as shown above, is likely quite low), do you think that that's fair for a job that requires no education, no experience, and no real ability of any kind? $60,000 a year is a huge amount of money; far FAR above the average single-person salary in Toronto. If this kind of job deserves $60,000, what kind of job would EVER deserve less than that?

If you say that everyone deserves to make at least $60,000 (an argument union apologists often make; it's not us that makes too much, it's everyone else that makes too little) you clearly don't understand how a free market works. If everyone else makes more money it's the same as you making less money.

I don't blame the union for bargaining for the best deal that they can get, that's how the market should work. It's ludicrous, however, that anyone tries to portray $60,000-80,000 as a 'fair' wage for a garbage collector. It's fair because it's what they were able to bargain for, but it's certainly not fair in any other respect.
 

afransen

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^ I wouldn't even argue it's fair. It's what they bargained for given the fact that the city can't go elsewhere for garbage collection services. I would tolerate unions if the city were free to contract out services. As it is, this is extortion of the rest of society.
 

cdr108

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AGTO... no they didn't.

Negotiating a new contract with your employer has nothing to do with the absence of activities relating to the work of striking employees.

Are you saying that people shouldn't try to secure the best contract for themselves only because of the bad smell piles of uncollected garbage would cause?

Hey.. lets just let our employer take everything we have because we dont want to cause a stink...

City workers are employees first and foremost... they aren't God-ordained garbage collectors by destiny. They provide a service and deserve to negotiate for a fair settlement.


Yes they did b/c the City was forced to open temporary dumps within the City, which Moss Park was, b/c the union members took it upon themselves to break the law and delay each individual 15 minutes and more at the gate of the transfer stations .

By law, the union is allowed to delay for as long to inform the individual ... perhaps 1 minute to give a pamplet ....... NOT OBSTRUCT .
 

unimaginative2

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Another perspective:


Myths and reality of the union movement



Aug 02, 2009 04:30 AM

Angelo Persichilli

The Toronto Star

The civic workers' strike in Toronto has not been the best moment of Mayor David Miller's political life. During the strike, he managed to alienate both unions and citizens. At the end, having realized he had to make a choice, he decided to go back where he was at the beginning, with the unions.

Still, it would be a mistake to believe that he was the cause of the mess Torontonians had to endure for over a month. Miller is only one of those who have contributed over the years to fostering a belief that unions are the conscience of the working world, that they always are on the right side of any issue and that it's sacrilegious to fight them.

Before I say more about this sanctimonious mentality, it's important to make some distinctions, because unions are not all the same. There are differences in leadership among different trades and even within the same organizations. Sid Ryan is the president of Ontario's CUPE, while Paul Moist is the national president of the same organization – but the two have nothing in common in terms of style, content and their approach to disputes.

Unfortunately, the entire union movement tends to be judged not based on the quiet, reasonable work of the vast majority but on the radical actions of the few, which catch the attention of the media and are criticized by Canadian citizens.

Having said that, let me elaborate on some of the myths that some still believe are the essence of the union movement.

First, unions do not represent the entire working world. They are only interested in defending the wages and benefits of their members, most of the time at the expense of other, non-unionized, workers.

Second, even though they may claim to support the interests of children, students or patients, in reality there always is a demand for better wages or benefits behind almost every dispute.

Third, they live in isolation. Most of the time, their demands are made with no consideration for the conditions of other workers in the same country, not to mention the reality in other parts of the world.

Unfortunately for them, globalization has exposed their idyllic oasis and they refuse to realize that the emperor is naked. That's why they keep asking for benefits like the sick days Miller has just confirmed for them: pay them because they are not sick!

Furthermore, many union leaders confuse the role of unions and political organizations. They treat their unions as personal vehicles to promote their political agenda, believing their pro-worker rhetoric could elect them to any legislature.

Of all the myths, the last one is the most fraudulent. If, as they say, unions defend the interests of Canadian workers, we must conclude they are not doing a good job. In fact, unions have not been successful in getting many of their own leaders elected to any legislature, even when they run as candidates in very unionized ridings.

Because of their behaviour, unions also have alienated the support of political leaders who used to be very close to them. It is not just Bob Rae who has some interesting opinions about unions. Former Ontario NDP leader Howard Hampton also has expressed concerns: "You enter into those kinds of negotiations hoping that the people you know in the labour movement, and that you have worked beside and fought with for many years, that there would be some understanding there. It wasn't there."

The strike in Toronto, as I said, probably was not Miller's fault, but it definitely offered him an opportunity to show leadership in a sector that needs real leaders. Unfortunately, he took a pass, leaving the door wide open for someone who wants to take this opportunity in the next election.

The only good news from this garbage strike comes from the people of Toronto. They have shown maturity and civic responsibility, and for that they must be praised.

Angelo Persichilli is the political editor of Corriere Canadese. His column appears Sunday.
 

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